Save The Bay submits testimony on South Fork Wind Energy proposal
To: The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council
From: Mike Jarbeau, Save The Bay Baykeeper
Date: June 2, 2021
Re: South Fork Wind Energy Proposal
Save The Bay was one of the many participants in the Ocean SAMP process. We are proud of the hard work that was done in order to proactively prepare the state for the exact type of situation we find ourselves in tonight.
Save The Bay submits that the Council must uphold the enforceable policies set forth in the SAMP and find that the project is not consistent with the enforceable policies of the Ocean SAMP. The staff summary analysis makes a strong case that the project is not consistent with the SAMP but, surprisingly, concludes with a recommendation of conditional approval. The staff’s recommendation is not supported by its own analysis. The extensive time and planning efforts undertaken by staff and stakeholders in the development of the SAMP are for naught if the Council does not uphold its enforceable policies.
We fully support wind energy properly sited. However, based on the extensive analysis prepared by staff, the project is not properly sited, nor is it consistent with the Ocean SAMP. The known and potential impacts to our coastal resources, including unique, essential fish habitat, from project construction, installation, operation, and decommissioning, are irreversible. As currently constituted, the proposal is not consistent with the Ocean SAMP for two main reasons:
- First, as stated by staff, “the location of the SFW project on Cox Ledge… is in our view one of the worst possible locations within Rhode Island Sound”… We agree. While we understand there are risks of habitat loss to meet wind energy goals, this project will disrupt some of the most valuable habitat in Rhode Island Sound. For example, Cox Ledge is one of the few remaining places in Rhode Island Sound where Atlantic cod are found at all life stages. While all fish habitat is important, spawning and nursery areas are especially important in providing shelter for these species during the most vulnerable stages of their life cycles. CRMC staff have determined that despite modifications made to the proposed SFW project by the developer, the project will have adverse impacts on the Rhode Island-based coastal uses and resources.
- Secondly, the applicant reconfigured the lease, precluding alternative locations and without opportunity for Rhode Island’s input. As stated by staff “Ørsted created their own hardship in this matter by segregating the 0517 lease area from the much larger 0486 lease during BOEM’s ongoing DEIS development process, and thus eliminated the feasibility for an alternative to relocate SFW turbine foundations to avoid damage to glacial moraine resources and values.” Simply put, the applicant should not be rewarded for reconfiguring the lease area knowing CRMC wanted the project located outside of the glacial moraine. If the Council certifies the project as consistent with the SAMP it will make a mockery of the process and the Ocean SAMP, set a dangerous precedent, and validate a playbook for other developers to leverage.
It is the Council’s statutory duty to uphold the enforceable policies of the Ocean SAMP, and protect coastal resources for this and succeeding generations. Wind energy is an important part of our future, but it cannot move forward at the expense of the most valuable parts of New England’s offshore environment. The expert staff analysis provides overwhelming evidence for denial, and not nearly enough to justify a consistency determination.
To conclude, Save The Bay submits that the project is not consistent with CRMC’s federally approved Coastal Management Program, even with the recommended conditions. This might be the correct project, but it is not the correct location.